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Scheduling Improvement Toolkit

Optimizing cancer center scheduling is a major challenge. But it’s critical to get right—inefficient scheduling leads to patient and staff dissatisfaction, higher costs, and lost revenues. Use the resources in this toolkit to help you implement four key strategies for redesigning your schedule.

Step 1: Evaluate your schedule's performance

Start by evaluating how well—or poorly—your current schedule is working. Your highest priority evaluation steps should be the following:

  • Evaluating accessibility for new patients
  • Measuring schedule availability for existing patients
  • Assessing staff and physician satisfaction with the schedule

Then, use the tools below to decide which access metrics you should track and to identify the benchmarks that will allow you to do so.

Guide to Solicit Schedule Feedback from Staff and Clinicians
View this guide to learn how to request, prioritize, and act upon scheduling feedback from staff. The guide also provides an outline of how to conduct staff focus groups.

Step 2: Optimize scheduling processes

Next, decide who will be responsible for scheduling and what resources your team will need to do it well. The ultimate goal is to create processes that ensure the schedule runs smoothly on an ongoing basis.

Diagnostic Assessment: Centralized vs. Decentralized Scheduling
Use this assessment to help you decide between centralized and decentralized scheduling models.

Guide for Creating High-Quality Scheduling Templates and Protocols
Use this guide to evaluate and revise existing scheduling templates and protocols or to inform the creation of new ones.

Step 3: Hardwire patient communication and support

Failure to communicate effectively with and appropriately support patients can lead to inefficient use of patient and physician time, unrealistic appointment expectations, missed appointments, and more costly care, which all negatively impact a cancer program’s bottom line.

To avoid this, cancer programs should ensure that they're regularly communicating with patients and providing the support necessary for patients to make their scheduled appointments while also enabling the care team to maximize appointment time by addressing patient needs in advance.

Checklist to Identify Patients at High Risk for No Shows
Use this checklist as a starting point to develop a list of criteria to identify patients at high risk for missed appointments—and to identify strategies to address these barriers.

Script for University Hospital Telephone Psychosocial Distress Screening

Download this script to see how a trained intake coordinator conducts telephone psychosocial distress screening for all newly diagnosed cancer patients.

Letter for Patients Unreachable by Phone for University Hospital Telephone Psychosocial Distress Screening

View the letter a trained intake coordinator mails to newly diagnosed cancer patients who cannot be reached by phone for psychosocial distress screening.

Oncology Distress Screening and Management
Get eight lessons for developing best-in-class distress screening and management programs.

Step 4: Develop a rapid access program (optional)

Cancer programs that have identified timely new patient access as a top priority should consider implementing a rapid access program to reduce time-to-first-appointment.

Rapid Access Program Guide
Use this guide to understand the key components of a rapid access program for new patients and learn how to get a best-in-class program off the ground.

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